Bob Dylan’s Tin Angel

by elmergantry

Am not sure if anyone has pointed out that Bob Dylan’s song ‘Tin Angel’ – at least in its first verse – is partially based on the old song, ‘The Raggle-Taggle Gypsies’. The best version I know of that song is by Planxty on their brilliant first album:

It was late that night that the lord came in,
Inquiring for his lady-o.
The servant girls they replied to him all,
She’s away with the Raggle-Taggle Gypsy-o

Oh saddle for me, me milk white steed.
Me big horse is not speedy-o.
I will ride and I’ll seek my bride,
“She’s away with the Raggle-Taggle Gypsy-o.

Oh then he rode east and he rode west.
He rode north and south also,
But when he rode to the wide-open field
It was there that he spied his lady-o.

You can hear the Planxty version of the song here:

Martin Carthy also recorded a version of this song as the ‘Seven Yellow Gypsies’ – his version can be found on the Topic album, ‘A Collection’. It can be also heard here:

The American version of the song is ‘Blackjack Davy’, which has been recorded both by Woody Guthrie and Dylan himself.

Unfortunately, I can’t say I like the bloody & portentous Cormac McCarthy-esque story which Dylan has added to the bare bones of the original song (which I much prefer).

I have always found McCarthy an insufferably tedious writer, and a vastly over-rated one…

His influence on Dylan on both ‘Tin Angel’ and ‘Aint’ Talking’ has, in my view at least, been all to the bad.

Ironically enough, ‘Tin Angel’ is also the name of a song by Joni Mitchell – it is on her album, Clouds, and was also covered by Tom Rush. The Tom Rush version can be heard here:

This may be a commentary by bob on the whole plagiarism row between him & Joni (seconds out, I hear you say)
Tin Angel was also, it seems, the name of a folk club in San Francisco in the 1950s. The name was also later used for a similar club in Greenwich Village…